7/26/2015 Wilmar MN to Buffalo MN.

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My idea of a perfect day now begins with a shopping trip to Walmart to pick up yesterdays sandwiches and salads at half price, a quart of V8 juice and V8 fruit drink and whatever bike parts I might need. Then it’s a scoot to McDonalds for breakfast and WiFi. My how things have changed!

Then my idea of a perfect day is riding a bike along country roads in coolish sunny weather. The perfect day is finished with a swim in a lake and a picnic table dinner. Today was really perfect.

The terrain has changed, become much more rollie pollie and green. There only used to be trees only around farm houses but now little woods are growing around little lakes. I catch glimpses of snowmobiles in sheds awaiting a very different season.

Sherpa and his bodyguard. No one messes with him now!

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I catch this tractor trailer being loaded with corn.

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The man says when full it will hold 1000 bushels. Corn now sells for $3 a bushel, wheat for $5. Doesn’t that seems like an awful lot of corn for $3000? How does the farmer do it? Consider the land, the seed, the tilling and planting equipment, the fuel, the fertilizer, the harvesting equipment, the storage facility, the hauling and the farmers time. The man agrees, and is thankful he is a driver not a farmer.

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Winner of the prettiest farm of the day award.

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Winner of the bluest house in a corn field award.

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Winner of the sharpest church in a bean-field award.

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Camping at lake Buffalo.

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7/24/2015 Aberdeen to Milbank

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Say what you will about the problems with monocropping, genetic engineering and the use of pesticides and herbicides, but when you see the results and begin to understand how much food can be produced, it does make sense.

You need the uniformity to be able to plant and harvest by machine, and genetic engineering creates that. It’s hard to argue with success, arrogant to think that I know better than this farmer how food should be raised…

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The equipment costs more than my house, and the infrastucture is shared by communitys.

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Seed companies grow sample plots to showcase their wares.

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Some of that corn gets made into etanol for gasoline, it’s the top price. I learned that not many people use it because their gas mileage drops so much there is no savings.

SAM 1528

Sherpa had a battery fail today. I needed to take it apart to see what had happened, and was able to fix it readily. I was delighted. Six thousand two hundred and fifty miles and I get a new breakage! Taking it on a break it trip is working. Before I was through reassembling it I had some ideas for how to rebuild the part so it never fails. I was pleased that the design allowed me to repair it. Ondele!

SAM 1532

7/25/2015 Milbank SD to Wilmar MN.

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Minnesota!

I am a fish, swimming in a mirrored fishbowl. I keep swimming, and the same scene keeps repeating itself in infinite wavy variations.

I am going a little loopy.

As I move east, the terrain gets greener. The large irrigation systems have all but dissapeared. The land is mirrored with scores of large and small sky reflecting lakes. The terrain is a lot less rollie pollie.

Yawn

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Yawn

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A museum! An old schoolrooom:

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I explain to Sherpa how electricity used to be made: First you get yourself a big gasoline engine like this:

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And you hook it to a generator like this:

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And voila, you have enough power to run a block of homes. If Edison had his way, these would have been installed at about one per block, and used to power homes with DC power. Tesla and his AC power won out. Sherpa thinks they were pretty noisy and stinky and likes wind and photovoltaics better.

I camp at a busy fairgrounds in Willmar, swim in the warmish lake, and charge Sherpa up over night. I’m grateful.

I’ll start riding with Charlie in a few days which I am looking forward to.

7/21 to 7/23 McIntosh to Mobridge to Aberdeen

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Yesterday I spent riding into the headwinds using as little epower as possible. That left me very tired. Today I gave Sherpa more power. Despite the headwinds and a two hour repair- broken spokes and a blown out tube-, we made 108 miles today. A century even given the winds. I have to remember that I made the bike to make touring easier.

The scenery is variations on a theme, wheat, corn, prairie, tractors, small towns. I don’t find much new to photograph. But then big agribusiness starts showing up. The locomotive shows scale.

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Plenty of big silos like these.

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I think they make ethanol from corn here.

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It’s easy to forget how much snow this place gets. This building had too much snow on the roof!

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I’m camped in a city park in Aberdeen. It’s a big town with a WalMart and fast food. My park is lovely and has a hot shower.

7/21/2015 Hettinger ND to Mcintosh SD

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6000 miles today.

There is no stealth camping on the prairie. It is too flat, there are few trees or hills to hide behind, and it is all fenced off or growing something. That leaves the towns.

The small towns are great for camping. Tonight for example, in Mcintosh, I am camped behind city hall. It closed at 2:00PM. There is a nice grassy spot and power for Sherpa. I checked out the park (not private, no power), the swimming pool (too many kids, not private) and the post office.

Once decided I told the grocery store owner. He and a customer thought it would be fine. later, in taking a walk to the lake for a swim I ran across Jerry, a police officer. I introduced myself, and told him of my plans, and not to be concerned when he spotted me on patrol. I told him I would be gone by 7:00AM tomorrow. He was fine with it. I continued to the lake.

But the lake was impossible to get to without walking through a quarter mile of muck. A pickup truck drove up and Jerry was in it. “If it’s a shower you’re after, why not use the one in the jail?” That was great by me!

The view from my tent in the Hettinger Park.

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The wind, OMG the wind. In Ireland, I wouldn’t have felt like I experienced it without cycling in the rain. I was expecting winds in the plains, but you can never really be ready.

Wild Stallions? No, but a beautiful sight.

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The town of Lemmon has a dinosaur theme. This is a close up of a Triceratops with a cowboy riding him.

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Lemmon also has a fossilized wood park. That is unique!

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There are many curious items. They aren’t labeled, so take your best guess!

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There are many more farm equipment dealers than car dealers.

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I’m hoping for a calmer wind day tomorrow. It really took it out of me, even with the electric bkie.

7/20/2015 Baker Montana to Hettinger, North Dakota

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As I ride into North Dakota Highway 12 gives me some fits. The shoulder goes down to 12″ wide and is all rumblestrip. I have to ride in the traffic lane. Traffic is heavier as the wheat crop is coming in and big oil is busy making money here. Notice the bullet holes in the sign!

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I am impressed by this bronco sculpture and his lofty location.

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Not to be outdone, the next town had this.

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Marmarth North Dakota, a town of varying fortunes. Lillian Russell, whom I have mentioned before as the Jersey Lilly of Judge Roy Bean fame in Texas, played here and was watched by Teddy Rosevelt, who stayed here, back in this town’s heydey before the railroad shut down.

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The town is very pleasant, the tree lined streets are shady.

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This store and a convenience store remain alive.

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I buy an ice cream sandwich from a crowded cooler case at the very disorganized convenience store. The case has cartons of non-food-stuff stored in it too. The proprieter holds the sandwich up to the light and says “Last time I sold one of these I think I charged 59 cents.” It’s a deal! I take it outside and open it up wondering if that is dust on the wrapper. I try to bite it and find it is no longer ice cream. It has hardened into a rock like thing. Boy do those preservatives work!

Amused, I show it to the owner. “Where did you get it?” he asks. I point towards the ice cream case. He blanches. “Well, he says, “that case hasn’t worked for years.”

I didn’t want my money back. I assure him it is delicious as I attempt to chew hard enough to break it. “You should charge more when they get like this” I tell him as I rap it on the counter.

Little Missouri River

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Cattails in the wind.

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You are looking at the face of the man who grows your wheat. I see him and his son loading up a semi with wheat from one of their silos, so I stop to talk. I ask him how big his farm is.

“Oh, it goes from about 7 miles back down to the border”

“How can two people farm something that big?”

“The equipment practically drives itself with the GPS and all. The only thing is, it still has a hard time avoiding the odd pile of rocks in the field.”

They both feel that soon the equipment would not even need an operator.

“Does that mean you can sit at the kitchen table drinking coffee while the machinery does all the work?”

They just smile.

SAM 1464

7/19/2015 Miles City to Baker Montana

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To those who sped past me today;

Did you feel brother wind pushing your back,

and did you thank him?

Did you ring your bell for the cows,

the clearest tone they’ll ever hear?

Did the seedheads wave fanatically at you:

“Look at me, I’m an individual”

and did you nod back in compassion?

Did the Appaloosa run to the fence to greet you,

and did you whinny back to him?

Did you wish your day could go on like this forever,

and feel like it has been?

Did you eat your simple lunch lying down

on shaded grass, staring into a treetop?

Did a woman stand by the roadside awaiting your approach,

holding out a bag of Flathead cherries and a smile?

Did you stop to look with unflinching gaze

at the death grimace of the porcupine?

You miss so much- why do you speed? To see your love?

I’ve been all day with mine.

SAM 1415

What’s this- a mini Grand Canyon!

SAM 1409

The ebike2mars.com gal has sent me some emails. I’ll play along:

Dear Marsey,

I wanted to warn you that Pluton Alpha 7 is missing it’s flag. Please reference this picture on your journey to Mars so you don’t get lost.

SAM 1405

Something about being on the range inspires poetry!

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7/17 and 18 /2015 Forsyth to Miles City

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You buy the ticket and you take the ride. Today should be easy. It’s just 60 miles from Forsyth to Miles City and there is a country road that I can ride. I begin, and find that after 10 miles the country road becomes gravel. It actually is 45 miles of gravel and I bump and scritch and slide for many hours.

The compensation is to ride through the artwork of terrafarmers, who using water and seeds and high tech tractors turn desert into food.

Wheat.

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Corn.

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Montana coins.

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Father teaching son to fish on the Yellowstone river.

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The Yellowstone is grand.

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I see a bicycle store in Miles City, and pull in. Miles is the owner and he is helping Claude who is from France. We all talk. I can see that Miles is very patient with Claudes limited english and is listening carefully so he can be of help. Miles loves my ride and is eager to help me, so he and I agree to meet at his store at 9:30 AM the next day.

Miles is actually a philanthropist disquised as a bicycle mechanic. At lunch, he reagles me with stories of the handicapped youths he has helped ride bikes. His secret is he does not see them aas handicapped, just having different needs. He treats everyone tough, does not allow a snippet of self pity in his shop. He could talk for hours about his favorite subject, tough love for people that are overlooked by society.

We work happily taking care of the little things that need tweaking after 6000 miles. A new chain, new brake levers and pads, new cables, some spare spokes, some adjusting.

A 60 year old man, Mike, limps into Mile’s store. Half his body is contorted. Mike and Miles obviously are friends. His speech is slurred and Miles teases him about it, and asks him if he is still chasing women on his tike. Mike grins at the teasing and has his eye on a new trike. Miles tells him he needs a bigger trike, he carries too much shit. Mike explains to me about his condition. I don’t give him sympathy, just listen.

I have a lot to think about tonight as I camp again by the Yellowstone river and think about a great man and his real work.

7/16/2015 Roundup to Forsyth

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SAM 1369

My pedals spin, the chocolate earth moves beneath me.

Above me my cap skims the clouds.

It’s a wild, free and empty place

that pricks my skin, makes wolves howl,

and draws ancestors from their graves to join me.

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Tabletop

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The optimistic town of Vananda.

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I look at the cows looking at me and try to think about what they are thinking about….. 110 miles.

7/15/2015 Harlowton to Roundup MN

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Today is an easy ride with rainy wind at my back. But moving all the time is becoming tiresome. I long to stop, to linger, to soak up the beauty and peace of one place. So I stop often to breath it all in. A deep peace is washing into me.

For some reason I felt compelled to photgraph this church in a town with 4 streets, Shawmut. It seemed angry at being abandoned.

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Front lawn tractor collection in Shawmut.

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Here was the largest herd of goats I have seen since Africa. They were well guarded by two large white dogs.

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The coutryside is becoming more rugged.

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Highway 12 follows the Mussellshell river for many miles.

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Picture a 50 foot wide river three feet deep with fast flowing water. Put an island in the middle that splits the waterflow in two. Lay one hot cyclist in the water with his feet on the island as the water rushes all around him. It’s like bodysurfing a river! You can do it on your side, on your back, on your belly, as long as the water catches you straight on and doesn’t take you sideways!